Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders Annual Report 2005 - Ethiopia
|Publisher||International Federation for Human Rights|
|Publication Date||22 March 2006|
|Cite as||International Federation for Human Rights, Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders Annual Report 2005 - Ethiopia, 22 March 2006, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/48747cadc.html [accessed 19 May 2013]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
Continued pressure against members of EHRCO48
After the announcement that the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) had won the legislative elections of 15 May 2005, violent conflicts broke out in the main cities (Addis Ababa, Gondar, Awassa, Dessie and Nazareth) between the police and youth demonstrators who questioned the validity of the election results.
Arbitrary detention and judicial proceedings against Messrs. Chernet, Birhanu and Hailemariam49
On 8 June 2005, the police were authorised to take severe measures against demonstrators in Addis Ababa; 26 people were killed and about a hundred were wounded.
On 9 June 2005, the police arrested Mr. Taddesse Chernet, who had been commissioned by the Ethiopian Human Rights Council (EHRCO) to make an inventory of human rights violations committed during the demonstration. His whereabouts were unknown for several days. His family was finally able to visit him at the Zeway prison on 23 June 2005.
Furthermore, on 13 June 2005, Mr. Tsegu Birhanu, head of the Monitoring and Investigation Department of EHRCO, and Mr. Yared Hailemariam, his assistant, were arrested while leaving the EHRCO offices in Addis Ababa. On 9 June 2005, the police had searched Mr. Hailemariam's home. Messrs. Birhanu and Hailemariam were followed by the police during their investigations, which included visiting hospitals to take pictures of the deceased and wounded demonstrators.
Their whereabouts were unknown until 25 June 2005, when they received a visit from the International Committee of the Red Cross and their families at the Zeway prison.
On 4 July 2005, Messrs. Chernet, Birhanu and Hailemariam were released on bail following a third court hearing before the Temporary Federal Court of Zeway. They were formally charged with "trying to overthrow a legitimate government by force". By the end of 2005, charges against them were still pending.
Furthermore, in November 2005, after a new wave of demonstrations denouncing the results of the elections, the police killed at least 34 people. During these events, Messrs. Chernet and Hailemariam were put on a list of 58 persons being sought by the authorities for their alleged role in the November 2005 events.
Arbitrary detention and judicial proceedings against Messrs. Bekele, Degu and Kebede50
On 14 June 2005, Messrs. Tesfawe Bekele and Seifu Degu, respectively president and vice-president of EHRCO section in Dessae, and Mr. Chane Kebede, member of EHRCO, were arrested at the Dessae school and taken to the municipal prison. Mr. Bekele and Mr. Degu had been observers during the election process.
On 23 June 2005, Messrs. Bekele, Degu and Kebede were released on bail. They were charged with "trying to overthrow a legitimate government by force". By the end of 2005, the judicial proceedings were still pending.
On 25 October 2005, Mr. Tesfawe Bekele was arrested again. He was released on bail on 28 October 2005.
Finally, Mr. Seifu Degu was arrested again on 4 November 2005, together with Messrs. Mekonen Bezu and Reta Chanie, teachers and members of EHRCO. Messrs. Bezu and Chanie turned themselves over to the police after their wives had been arrested in their stead. As of late 2005, they were still in prison in the vicinity of Dessac and their families were not allowed to visit them.
Continued harassment of Mr. Woldemariam51
On 1 November 2005, Mr. Mesfin Woldemariam, former EHRCO president, was arrested in his home as part of a new wave of arrests of political opponents, human rights defenders and journalists. On 7 November 2005, Mr. Woldemariam and other defendants appeared before the Federal High Court of Addis Ababa that ordered them to be detained for an additional fourteen days so that the police could carry out their investigation.
On 21 November 2005, during the second hearing, the court denied bail and ordered them to be held under administrative detention for another 10 days. On 28 November 2005, Mr. Woldemariam went on a hunger strike.
On 1 December 2005, Mr. Woldemariam and 129 other people, including leaders of the Coalition for Unity and Democracy Party (CUDP), journalists and NGO members, were handed over to the Federal High Court of Addis Ababa since their period of detention was about to end. The judge ordered the Prosecutor to present the charges against these persons within 15 days. On 21 December 2005, they were formally accused of "conspiracy", "armed insurrection", "attempts to upset constitutional order", "high treason" and "genocide", offences punishable by 25-years in prison or death.
Furthermore, Mr. Woldemariam and Mr. Birhanu Nega, president of the Ethiopian Economic Association, were still facing charges for having encouraged the students to "demand respect of their rights by rioting rather than through legal means" (Art. 32-1 and 480 of the Criminal Code) as well as for colluding with the Ethiopian Democratic League (EDL), an organisation considered illegal at that time (but which has been registered since) so as to "create a clandestine party in order to change the Constitution by illegal means" (Art. 32-1 and 250 of the Criminal Code). Having been arrested on 8 May 2001 after making a public statement in support of academic freedom and respect for human rights at a seminar held at the University of Addis Ababa, they had been released on 5 June 2001 following their hunger strike. Since that time, the hearings for their trial have been systematically postponed.
Harassment of several members of EHRCO
In the framework of the repressive measures introduced after the November 2005 demonstrations, plainclothes security men were constantly surveying the house of Mr. Gashu Wondimagegne, member of EHRCO, and interrogated his mother.
Mrs. Demissie Elfinesh, a teacher and member of the EHRCO Executive Committee, had to pay heavy fines for not coming to school during the week of protests, although her school had been closed during that period. Furthermore, she received an anonymous letter warning her that a "final action" would be taken against her by the higher authorities, but the nature of such action was not specified.
Assault and arbitrary detention of Mr. Daniel Bekele52
On 16 October 2005, Mr. Daniel Bekele, member of the Executive Committee of the Network of Ethiopian NGOs and policy, research and advocacy manager for ActionAid Ethiopia, an international NGO dedicated to the fight against poverty, was attacked by two unknown, armed men in Addis Ababa while in his car. One of the men asked him "who are you to criticise the ruling party?", then they hit him violently in the eyes and on the head with the butts of their pistols. The assailants ran away when several people came to help him.
Mr. Bekele lodged a complaint at the nearest police station. ActionAid Ethiopia also lodged a complaint with the Federal Police Commission. However, by the end of 2005, the investigation had still not been opened.
On 1 November 2005, security forces arrested Mr. Bekele again, as part of the new wave of arrests of political opponents and activists. By the end of 2005, he remained in detention, although no charges had been brought against him.
Continued pressure against EFJA53
In December 2003, the government had decided to suspend the activities of the Ethiopian Free Press Journalists' Association (EFJA) on the grounds that EFJA had not submitted its audited financial accounts to the Ministry of Justice. The members of the EFJA Executive Committee, more specifically, Messrs. Kifle Mulat, president of EFJA, Taye Woldesmiate Belachew, vice-president, Sisay Agena, treasurer, Tamiru Geda, public relations manager, and Habtamu Assefa, accountant, had also been prohibited "from carrying out any further activities within EFJA". On 24 December 2004, the Federal Court of First Instance had ruled that the suspension of EFJA and its senior officers had been illegal.
On 3 March 2005, the Federal High Court rejected the appeal from the Ministry of Justice and confirmed the ruling of 24 December 2004.
However, on 13 October 2005, Messrs. Mulat, Belachew, Agena and Assefa were arrested by the police and questioned for several hours by members of the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) in Addis Ababa. The interrogation focused on EFJA activities, especially the publication of its press releases that CID members qualified as illegal, maintaining that they had not been informed of the December 2004 Court's verdict. Moreover, Mr. Kifle Mulat's name was put of the list of persons being sought by the authorities for their alleged role in the November 2005 events.54
In addition, on 21 November 2005, members of the security forces besieged the EFJA offices and confiscated computers and documents. By the end of 2005, none had been returned.
Finally, on 29 November 2005, the police arrested Mr. Sisay Agena after his sister, Mrs. Aboneshe Abera, had been held for three days and had been subjected to ill-treatment in order to obtain information on his whereabouts. On 21 December 2005, he would have been charged during the trial of 129 persons for their alleged role in the riots of June and November 2005. Mr. Mulat apparently was also charged in absentia during the trial.
Continued harassment of ETA members55
On 25 September 2005, Mr. Teferi Gessese, treasurer of the Ethiopian Teachers' Association (ETA) and secretary general of the Addis Ababa Teachers' Association, which belongs to ETA, was arrested and taken to the Gulele Sub-City Police Department, where he was forced to fill out an identity form and was photographed. He was allegedly subjected to ill-treatment during his detention.
On the same day and at the same time, Mr. Kassahun Kebede, president of the Addis Ababa Teachers' Association, was questioned at his home by five men who took him to the second police station of Addis Ababa. He was also forced to fill in a form and was photographed before being released three and a half hours later.
The next day, Mr. Tamrat Tesfaye, member of the Executive Committee of the Addis Ababa Teachers' Association, along with nine other members of this association, was subjected to similar treatment.
[Refworld note: This report as posted on the FIDH website (www.fidh.org) was in pdf format with country chapters run together by region. Footnote numbers have been retained here, so do not necessarily begin at 1.]
48. See Annual Report 2004, Urgent Appeals ETH 001/0605/OBS 040, 040.1, 040.2, Press Release, 15 June 2005, and the international fact-finding mission report, Ethiopia: Human Rights Defenders under pressure, April 2005.
49. Cf. Urgent Appeals ETH 001/0605/OBS 040, 040.1, 040.2 and Press Release, 15 June 2005.
51. See Annual Report 2004 and Open Letter to the Ethiopian authorities, 5 January 2006.
52. See Urgent Appeal ETH 002/1005/OBS 098.
53. See Annual Report 2004.
54. See above.
55. See Annual Report 2004.